You know how some outfits can make us feel amazing and powerful, while others render us insecure and uncertain? Well, it turns out that there’s some real logic behind this phenomenon.
Although we’ve long been aware that clothing can affect how others perceive us and how we perceive them, new research into “enclothed cognition” points to the specific ways our clothing can alter our mood and self-perception. Anyone who’s had an outfit ruin their day can appreciate just how major this is. Coined by Dr. Adam D. Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern university, enclothed cognition refers to the effects of clothing of cognitive processes—or what clothing items make us happy, sad, energetic, lazy, etc., and why?
One of the most well known studies on the subject, completed by Galinsky, found that a person’s mental agility increased when they wore a white doctor’s coat. As an article on Psychology Today explains, “The coat primed their brain to take on the sharper mental capacities they associated with being a doctor.” But that symbolism is crucial—when they were told, instead, that it was a painter’s coat, it didn’t have the same effect.
Another study, completed by Barbara Frederickson in the 1990s, asked women and men to take a math test twice: once, while wearing a swimsuit, and then again while in a sweater. Though the men’s scores stayed the same each time, the women’s notably dipped during the swimsuit round. Their conclusion? “Self-objectification consumes mental resources.”
The Professor Karen Pine, author of Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion has discovered even more interesting tidbits about women and their clothes. It turns out that we’re more inclined to wear jeans when we’re feeling low and depressed, and that when we’re stressed we wear 90% less of our wardrobes. These findings certainly make the thought of putting effort into our outfits seem less superficial than is often believed.
To find out how your clothes are affecting your life, we recommend keeping a journal for a week or two that documents your outfits. At the end of each day, record your various moods from the day and see if you can make any direct connections to your clothing. If not, it might be time to call in the big guns: a fashion psychologist (yes, they really exist!)
Have you ever noticed your clothing affecting your mood? Tell us about it in the comments, and shop some of our happiest clothing items here!